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Webrooming was a frequent activity among shoppers this holiday season—particularly for millennials. Webrooming is the practice of using a smartphone to check prices, read reviews or find discounts and deals, then purchasing in store. The implication of this increase will affect how retailers manage their mobile marketing going forward.
According to a survey from International Council of Shopping Centers conducted by ORC International, which looked at how many internet users planned to webroom during this past shopping season, 95% of millennial internet users said they were expected to research items online before buying in-store, compared to 85% of total internet users.
There are a number of reasons why shoppers pick up their mobile devices in-store, but another International Council of Shopping Centers study, conducted after the holiday, found that millennial internet users were most likely to turn to their devices during this holiday season to compare prices, with slightly more than half of respondents reporting doing so.
Using their mobile devices to check availability of inventory or search for discounts online were the next most popular webrooming activities, with about four in 10 millennial internet users doing so.
A study from GfK looked at the general incidence of webrooming year over year (not just during the holidays) and found 46% of young adults 18 to 26 researched an item on a mobile device and then bought it in a store in 2016, up from 41% in 2015.
eMarketer analyst Yory Wurmser explained that while webrooming has become commonplace for shoppers of all ages, "what sets millennials apart is their inclination to do their preparatory research on their phones, often while they're in the store. They're webrooming until the moment they buy, which has major implications for the type of mobile experience retailers need to deliver to millennials."
Showrooming—researching products in the store, then buying digitally—is growing among millennials as well, though it's still practiced less frequently than webrooming. According to GfK, about one in three young adults researched a product in a brick-and-mortar store and then bought it online via a mobile device last year, an 8-percentage point jump from 2015.
Despite the convenience and often-lower pricing that online purchasing offers, many consumers still prefer in-store purchases to avoid shipping charges, delivery wait times and online return policies.
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